Baby Boomers

This morning, I heard some alarming and troubling statistics; 16% of the baby boomer generation says they are ready for retirement and 43% say they have less than $10K saved for retirement. The recession has delayed the retirement plans of the average baby boomer by about 9 years.  Two thirds of all health care costs are incurred after the age of 60 and health care costs/insurance is the #1 source of financial concern to retirees, despite medicare and medicaid.

Don’t worry – I am not getting into the health care debate here.  Instead, I am putting on my Talent Management hat and asking, What is the impact of this to the workforce and workplace? We already have a good sense of how the workplace is evolving to more virtual and transient models almost entirely enabled by some form of technology.  Studies have shown higher levels of discomfort by baby boomers with technology than younger generations for obvious reasons… the younger generations grew up with technology (Digitial Natives) as opposed the Digital Immigrants that the baby boomers are. The baby boomers also come with significantly higher overhead than youger employees and couple that with the  desire of baby boomers to not want to work full-time …. all leads to following plausible conclusions:

  • Baby boomers need to invest in learning technology-enabled job-functions
  • Baby boomers and employers need to figure out part-time and contract-based employement models
  • Employers need to figure out organizational and operational models that allow some or most of their employees to be part-time, virtual, and task (project) based

All this requires human resource professionals and consultants to immediately begin exploring responses to these conclusions that best fit their business needs. It is worth noting that the by-product of all this, in the content of professional development, is more virtual and collaborative models – not the traditional classroom-style models.


6 responses to “Baby Boomers

  1. This is a topic I’ve been studying for a very long time, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I do see a trend starting that Boomers have value in the workplace as a result of their experience and wisdom and, as a result, are still in demand. However, I do think that Boomers will want a different kind of worklife in their later years than the “workaholic” nature of their younger years. Part of making that happen is, as you suggest, is for Boomers to become more comfortable with the technology and for employers to make alternative work arrangements more available.

  2. Flexibility in the workplace is not just an issue for Boomers. Younger workers are demanding it as well, and technology facilitates this. If managers provide more clarity upfront and adopt a focus on results rather than procedure, people can work virtually — whether it’s from home or with a team thousands of miles apart. And while Boomers may not be Tweeting and would prefer a live conversation to an electronic one, I don’t think we should sell them short when it comes to embracing technology. I don’t know a Boomer out there who doesn’t know how to download pictures of their grandkids and many are talking to them via webcam all the time. These skills can easily be adapted to the work environment. I think the real question is: How can we build the trust that is required to enable the much-desired flexibility in the workplace?

  3. As a recently displaced Boomer who is straddling the gap between retirement and employment, I can confirm many of the referenced statistics. Although our retirement finances are in fairly good shape, I’m not ready nor interested in “unplugging” from the workforce for several years. I did actively search for “the right job” for much of the last year, but my heart tugged me away from corporate “jobs” back into self-employment — a conscious choice.

    My grassroots networking and research have left me firmly convinced that this recession has created an inflection point in the employment market. Whatever “normalcy” means to a recovered economy, I believe it will see a labor market struggling to identify ways to fill the gap between experienced talent who want to work (but on more flexible terms) and employers who are less willing to bear the burdened cost of a traditional “full time job” in favor of 1099-type contract work.

    IMO, this “new era” will challenge job seekers (young and seasoned), HR talent functions and the traditional company cultures from many directions. I’ve recently networked with founders of two different e-business models
    that partially address this gap in different ways. The opportunity is ripe for a collaborative solution that marries current technology with this need. Creative Entrepreneurs Welcome!

  4. You had better think again about the studies you are reading. Baby boomers are much more innovative and performance capable than many of the Gen X and Y employees. Ask yourself the question, with HR eliminating baby boomers, can Gen X and Y innovate and lead America out of these poor economic times? Can they revitalize America by themselves? By this thinking and policies, will HR “talent management” doom America?

  5. I have to agree with Steven. As a first hand boomer experiencing the economic experiences and changes, I am not sure who is creating the studies and who they are talking to, but when it comes to the traditional “grandma and grandpa” studies, they are off. I have no intention of retiring any time soon, if ever. I am not only very technology proficient, but I am very business savvy and making use of my experience and strengths to develop my own business. I do know that my skills are still highly desired through my own client experiences. Gen X and Y may be the group to “hire” but I can say from first hand experience that Boomers and their stability and expertise is still a force to be reckoned with.

  6. I train adults at the local library on the computer and have a waiting list. You wouldnt believe the numbers of people who need one-on-one training who are 50-60 and have been in the workforce their whole lives. They are too embarrassed to take a class or ask their kids for help. I love doing it, but there needs to be 100 more people volunteering just like me to make a difference.

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